Moments after Justin Thomas finished plotting his way masterfully around Quail Hallow to capture the PGA Championship, Symetra Tour player Emma Talley took to Twitter to offer her congratulations.
She tweeted “JT!!!!! Could not be more pumped for him!!!!!! #rtr #ky”
The hashtags tell the story of this friendship that started during their junior golf days in Kentucky (#ky). Talley is from the two-stoplight town of Princeton (southwestern part of Kentucky) – population under 8,000 (as of the 2010 census). Thomas is from Goshen (just north of Louisville), which is even smaller – population under 1,000. They share the small-town Kentucky pride. While Talley doesn’t recall exactly when they met, she knows it was during the Kentucky junior golf days.
The friendship continued in college as they both choose to play at the University of Alabama (#rtr is "Roll Tide Roll”). Thomas arrived at Alabama for the 2011-12 season while Talley arrived the year later.
"It was really cool seeing Justin win, he's done really well out there (PGA TOUR),” said Talley, as she prepares to head back out on the Symetra Tour. "It definitely gives me motivation to be successful at such a high level, but to also give back as much as he has to Kentucky golf.”
In 2016, Thomas set up the Justin Thomas Fund, which provides financial assistance to Kentucky junior golfers that they have the potential to play college golf. The funds allow the juniors to play a more robust national schedule with the goal of obtaining a college golf scholarship.
Talley is well on her way to joining Thomas at the top of the women’s game and having the means to give back in a similar fashion. She currently ranks seventh on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with six events left so she has an inside track to join Thomas at the highest level on the women’s side.
"His family is amazing,” said Talley. "He is like a big brother to me and I am so excited to continue watching his success.”
From Kentucky to Alabama to professional golf.